Why You’re Not Catching Fish when Fly Fishing (6 Reasons)

I have been fishing for many years and I get asked this question quite a lot. Why am I not catching any fish when I am out to fly fishing and here is what I say!

Why you’re not catching fish when fly fishing? There are several reasons and here are a few, the fish aren’t biting, wrong flies, you scared them, it’s too windy, it’s too hot, it’s too cold, maybe someone just fished here.

Even very experienced anglers will have days when they don’t catch fish or not many. It happens to the best of us, and you can always find reasons to explain what’s wrong. Everything from the good or bad weather to your location might affect your fishing success.

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The Fish Aren’t Biting

When you fish hard and you don’t catch anything, it’s easy to say the fish are simply not biting. That may be generally true, but I have seen some fishing tournaments prove that this is not a valid reason.

There have been some tournaments when no one catches a fish, but that is usually under extreme weather conditions.

I have been out fishing many times and have not caught a fish and my brother-in-law has. We have been fishing side by side with people in another boat and we were slaying them and they didn’t even get a hit.

It can also work the same way for others.

So there is usually some fish biting on something, somewhere. You just didn’t find them or couldn’t figure them out.

fly fishing rod and fly box full of flies

Wrong Flies

It just might be that your flies are too big or too small. Try going up or down in your hook sizes.

If you have been using dry flies maybe try a different pattern or color.

Dry Fly

A dry fly is one of the most exciting types of flies you can use to fly fish for trout. A dry fly is one that floats on the surface of the water.

This is exciting because the fish has to come up to the top of the water and grab the fly off the surface. This gives you a first-hand view of the fish feeding and makes for a very visual presentation.

It will also help you know when the fish has taken your fly, compared to nymph fishing.

The Nymph

The nymph is considered to be one of the most productive of all the flies to use to fly fish for trout. This is due to the fact that fish, trout specifically; feed about 80% of the time underwater.

This is how you fish the nymph fly, under the surface of the water.

Streamer Flies

The streamer can be one of the most fun flies to fly fish for trout with. They are one of the most productive flies, second only to the nymphs.

Most strikes to the streamer fly tend to be quite aggressive and explosive as the fish attempts to eat the fly as fast and as hard as possible so that it doesn’t get away. Make sure that you use a heavier weight of tippet when you are fishing these!

You Scared Them

You should not have walked up to the river like a drunk you should try to creep up quietly. Crawl next time even on your hands and knees if you have to.

Sometimes when I get to a new fishing spot, all I want to do is get my fly over a rising fish as soon as possible. But sometimes, your eagerness will end up biting you from behind. By being observant and patient when you first arrive at your fishing destination. This can make the difference between catching some fish or getting a big goose egg.

fly fisherman fishing in river

It’s Too Windy

Did you know that the wind can be your friend or your enemy? If it is blowing too hard for you to fish effectively or to control your boat, it can hurt you.

But the wind can also position baitfish and the fish you’re trying to catch, so wind can be your friend. It can also help you and allow you to drift the areas quietly it all depends on the strength of the wind.

If there is no wind, use flies that are better in calm conditions, like finesse and topwater flies.

It’s Too Hot

At times, it can be so hot that fishing isn’t very fun, but the fish still have to eat. You can beat the heat by fly fishing at night, or by fishing for the first and last few hours of the day.

Or you can try finding shaded areas to fish, and by dressing properly. Remember and try to drink a lot of water, and maybe even help by going swimming to cool off.

It’s Too Cold

Fish are cold-blooded, so temperature affects them in different ways than it affects people. There are many species that still feed underneath a frozen water surface.

Ice anglers have repeatedly shown that you can catch fish no matter how cold that the water gets. When the water is very cold, you should fish slowly, use smaller flies, and try to fish deep.​

Maybe Someone Just Fished Here

So you might need to move to some new water

How many times have you cast to the same spot hoping that on the last cast. That maybe Methuselah, will magically materialize out from under that rock and take your fly? Sorry, but this dream isn’t going to come true.

Casting over and over again to the same spot and not moving on is the least efficient way of fishing a river. Give yourself three or four good casts in a spot, then move on. If a fish doesn’t hit your fly in three or four casts, it probably won’t happen at all.

Bob Hoffmann

The author of this post is Bob Hoffmann. Bob has spend most of his childhood fishing with his father and now share all his knowledge with other anglers. Feel free to leave a comment below.

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